Archive for category Catablogic Blathering
I produced the following in the fall of 1998, shortly before I started actually getting paid for stuff I’d come up with concerning running. In those days I was a de facto columnist for Cool Running, which long ago scrapped all of my and others’ material in its purposeful transition from a homey New England-first site to a far-reaching virtual shitstain that sold out to the assholes at Active.com. I particularly like this one; you can explore the whole lot of them here thanks to the intrepid generosity of the Wayback Machine.
Don’t Go There
We runners are explorers. Except for the treadmill crowd, the very nature of what we do makes us wanderers and seekers, postmodern pioneers. All but the most regimented yearn for the variety offered by new routes; fresh landscapes and changes of scenery help spike our motivation, forestalling the drudgery that inevitably creeps into our training programs.
Vacations serve as opportunities to travel through virgin territory, guided by our whims rather than travel brochures. Instead of viewing the passing scenery through the porthole of a tour bus or rental car, we live it, feel it, in fact become a part of it. To the resigned dismay of family and friends, we prefer to run, for example, around the perimeter of Disneyworld rather than immerse ourselves in the mouse-eared attractions therein. Accusations that we make bad traveling companions are difficult to deflect.
But we spend most of our time at home, where excursions into the unknown require resourcefulness and effort. To the city-bound, novelty is often offset by banality: “fresh” scenery might include a new strip mall or, almost as offensive, loosely-organized bands of brooding crackheads. (After spending one high-mileage summer in Atlanta, I came to know many of these types by name.)
Those of us in the ‘burbs and beyond are more fortunate. No matter how intimately we know our environment, there is always somewhere new to run. An old logging trail, shooting off into the netherworld from a familiar road, catches our eye after years of inexplicable concealment; we are inspired to explore the sloping lanes of an apple orchard after a decade of regarding it as just another tract of land.
Inherent in the discovery of off-road routes is the certainty of becoming an unwanted guest. Admit it: you’ve seen the signs, the ones that read “PRIVATE PROPERTY” in plain English, and you’ve ignored them, unable to resist what lay beyond in spite of (or, perhaps, because of) their admonitions. “Hell, I’m just a runner,” you tell yourself. These signs explicitly discourage hunters, fishermen, snowmobilers, dirt bikers, unicyclists, out-of-control Canadian truckers and Kenneth Starr, but never runners, who pose no threat to flora and fauna. Therefore, “NO TRESPASSING – THIS MEANS YOU” must apply to someone else.
Running into the relative unknown infuses me with a certain arrogance, a sense of self-reliance; I may be on unfamiliar ground, but, buoyed by past experience, I know I can find my way home. Through my willingness to tolerate swamps, thorns, and righteously barking dogs, I gain perspectives on my world that the couch-bound cannot: a glimpse of scampering deer, or, beneath a sky gloriously streaked and bronzed by a sunset, a view of the sparkling waters of the Merrimack River from an isolated, long-forgotten hilltop.
Serene as it sounds, I’ve gotten myself into trouble this way.
During my Dartmouth days I frequently took to the woods around the town reservoir. One day I became convinced I could find a shortcut back to campus by striking out overland. After negotiating some brutal thickets and crossing a sizable creek, I came upon a field and could hear the telltale hum of traffic on nearby Route 120, the road I had hoped to find. Too smug to be cautious, I breezed by a sign nailed to a tree, noting only the first word: “ATTENTION.” A few minutes later a series of rifle reports did indeed capture my attention, and I did a prompt about-face toward the reservoir. This time I read the sign’s fine print: “ATTENTION: Dartmouth biathlon training range. Firearms in use.” In a typical display of wisdom, I returned a few months later. “Must be a seasonal thing,” I reasoned, immediately before another spate of gunfire sent me thrashing into the sanctity of the woods once again.
Sometimes my disregard is even more callous. About once a year, I run to the top of Oak Hill, my hometown’s highest point. A tough one-mile climb of some 500 vertical feet up a decaying road once maintained by the Forest Service leads to an ancient, sixty-foot-tall observation tower formerly used to spot fires. The public is invited to “CLIMB AT YOUR OWN RISK,” which is considerable, since the structure is older than Stonehenge. But its rickety wooden steps lead to a rewarding vista, so I can’t resist the ascent.
When I last climbed Oak Hill, I noticed a new man-made encroachment: a cell-phone tower over twice as tall as the observatory. It was serviced by a ladder and looked climbable. Figuring it would offer twice the view of its older companion, I clambered gingerly over the concertina wire girding this edifice (“surely they don’t mind runners inside”) and made it about fifty feet up before I realized the bitter winds up there were quickly turning my gloved fingers to stone. Frozen in place momentarily, I was suddenly more curious about the proposed link between electromagnetic fields and various cancers; I swore I could hear the conversations of pimps, drug dealers, and their lawyers being transmitted through my fillings and directly into my brain. Wondering what Sir Edmund Hillary would have made of such folly, I slithered back down to earth. It bears mentioning that while I was flailing around on the tower, a vicious house fire attracting firefighters from fourteen towns was raging away no more than four miles from my dubious perch. The fact that I didn’t see the blaze from a point expressly chosen for detecting such disasters categorically eliminated at least one career option. I did put in nineteen miles that day, though.
I do a lot of running near the hospital where I work. Behind the medical center, a network of trails – soon to be replaced, I understand, by acres of pavement and a nursing-home complex – is surrounded on all sides by private lands and homes, offering ample opportunity to explore and trespass. Having lost track of time and my bearings one morning, I was searching for a shortcut back to the hospital, hoping to avoid tardiness, when I saw a pair of hunters, one wielding a bow and the other an ancient-looking musket. I think the average paintballer could have taken out this pair; still I was aghast – this was hospital property, and signs forbidding hunting abound. “Can’t these idiots read? Have they no respect?” I asked myself in disgust, picking my way over a chain-link fence into someone’s back yard. I just made it to work on time.
I had my most remarkable experience along these lines last month, when I decided to do a hill workout on an open slope I discovered after considerable effort. To find it, I had to cross an interstate highway on foot and run about three miles along a set of railroad tracks. To this day, I cannot pinpoint this hill’s location on a map within a mile, but when I saw it I knew it was there just so I could punish myself in style. The slope was grassy, but not slick; it was evenly pitched, with a grade of perhaps fifteen percent, and two hundred meters long. Best of all, I was far enough away from everything and everyone so that no one would hear me puke toward the end of the workout. I don’t mind doing speedwork in public, but hill workouts are private things, the dirty laundry of anyone’s training regimen. There is no grace or dignity in them, even on the finest of days.
Reflecting afterwards, I could not recall any signs indicating that this land was off-limits. Then again, its owner could not have expected anyone without antlers or wings to violate it from the railroad-track angle. Parachuting in would have been easier. Still, the fact that I had to breach a barbed-wire fence in order to access my perfect hill should have been a clue that I had again overstepped my bounds.
Anyway, after my third or fourth trek up the incline, with the effort taxing but not yet brutal, I glimpsed a figure standing as still as a statue, fifty yards beyond the summit and right in my path, toward lands unknown. He stood within a copse of trees, where branch-scattered sunbeams woven among shadows played havoc with my vision and made me wonder if I was imagining things. Disturbed but not truly afraid, I jogged back toward the base of the hill for my next dose.
But after the next repeat he was still there, and he had moved closer. Now I could see that he was wearing grease-stained overalls and holding a pitchfork. But this was no Rockwellian figure; he looked downright foreboding, his lack of an expression heralding something more sinister than simple indifference. My gasping breath caught in my throat, and I again made tracks for the bottom of the hill. But I’d be coming back up again. If this guy wanted to watch, fine. But unless he specifically ordered me away, I was determined to finish the workout.
Repeat number six came in went, fire rushing up and down my throat. At the top, I resolved not to look up this time, but was unable to keep this pledge, and I saw that the man had taken up a position on a nearby berm. He had swapped the pitchfork for a banjo, which he strummed – poorly – for a few seconds before smashing it to smithereens against a birch tree, Pete Townshend-like. I shook my head and lurched down the hill. For the first time, I dwelled on the possibility that oxygen starvation might be responsible for my “spectator.”
After the seventh ascent, a grunting, arm-flailing, knock-kneed affair that bore all the elegance of an epileptic donkey, my presumed landowner was wearing a pilgrim’s hat and a sundress, and was smoking a suspicious-smelling substance out of a gigantic hookah. He also held a sign: “CLIMB AT YOUR OWN RISK.” But I couldn’t – just couldn’t – stop at seven hills. Not with eight on the agenda. Just one more.
My final dash up the hill was a horrific struggle that seemed to leave even my fingernails hungering for air. I ignored the Drano sloshing about my leg veins for what seemed an eternity. At the top, beaten but exalted, I collapsed onto my hands and knees on a carpet of pine needles. Rolling over a moment later, I saw the man looming over me. He had shed his ensemble and wore the greasy overalls again. And a scowl. Unable to do more than suck in great gasps of air, I waited for his tirade to begin.
“Son,” he said, waggling a gouty index finger and fixing me with a baleful stare, “you lengthen the recovery interval between repeats like you’ve been doing, you’ll lose the anaerobic benefit. Keep it steady.” With that, he spat out a tooth, turned and ambled away.
That’s when I knew my visitor was a phantasm.
Still, making my way back to civilization, I was shaken enough to make an inner promise: no more misguided runs into areas I didn’t belong. There’s something to be said for familiarity, the old saw about it breeding contempt notwithstanding. Enough was enough.
I couldn’t help but notice an odd looking sign along the railroad tracks, though, one of those funky black-and-yellow jobbies with the little triangles. Passing by it, I read a single word: “BIOHAZARD.”
Surely what lay beyond was not a place where a runner would be welcome.
But as I sit here safely in front of my keyboard, contemplating my next run, another old saw occurs to me: it never hurts to be sure.
Friends can disagree, for the most part amiably, about politics. I would never reconsider maintaining a friendship with someone merely because he or she supports or rejects something related to public policy that I may not; many of these issues are strongly nuanced, and I can hardly claim to have encyclopedic — or in some cases even superficial — knowledge of all things being bandied about the public sphere.
I cannot, however, broker meaningful relationships with genuine wingnuts of any stripe. There’s no objective definition of a wingnut, of course, but if you can’t recognize one at a glance, consider corneal transplants. The classic example is people who base their entire world views on immoral mythical beings. These folks are wingnuts because they are not merely demonstrably wrong about a great many things, but are fiercely dogmatic, which is even worse. Often, but not always, the thought processes of wingnuts are damaged in ways that bleed into their everyday behaviors, leading to dealings that they’re as apt to find as miserable or pointless as you do, unless they’re trying to “save” you. Also, people who expressly go looking for their adversaries are going to find them, and will generally make irritating companions. Racism, sexism, true religious persecution, class warfare and other solecisms are very real and deeply troubling problems, but if you spend your days looking and high and low for them and screaming about them without any trace of offering solutions, you are virtually certain to be spreading unhappiness in your wake. I can’t think of a time when my own life was going really well and I was filling my spare time looking for people to get pissed at — which, of course, isn’t the same as turning a blind eye to injustice and strife.
With a black Democratic president in the White House, most of the more vocal and dissatisfied wingnuts these days are conservatives — or so they say. Most of them consider themselves right-leaning, but for the most part they’re apolitical save for their normative outbursts about guns and illegal immigrants and the Nanny State, and in that main they are grimly, almost parodically uneducated.
This blog post is a superb example. The anonymous clown who wrote this is an idiot, but deserves a smidgen of credit for at least having a goal of some sort: He believes that veterans should have improved access to health care. Never mind that his idea of a zero-sum game in this — a wider range of contraceptive options for women *or* medical care for vets — is a fucking shambles; despite his crippling biases, he seems at least vaguely attuned to the idea that realities beyond simply trying to get under others; skin exist.
Which brings me to my point. I don’t have time to discuss it at the moment, and even if I did this post is becoming unwieldy, but it relates to this: At least learn to recognize a “pure anti” when you see one. There are obvious examples among current and past politicians, but you really ought to recognize when it’s time to just quit listening to someone, and that your heroes on television or on the Internet are nothing more than animated avatars for you to jerk off to.
We’ve all dealt with assholes, and I mean the metaphorical sort, not the anatomical aperture. Most of us have, intentionally but often unwittingly, been one at various times. Some parts of the world are unquestionably home to a higher proportion of obnoxious, rude, or just plain dismal people than others, with most of these cities being, in my experience, in the northeastern U.S. It’s sort of the Asshole Belt. I love the big city in whose far outskirts I grew up, but I won’t pretend that Boston, or large swaths of it, isn’t a teeming display of drunken, racist louts who in the main would rather see the Red Sox beat the Yankees than save the life of a randomly selected newborn baby.
Yet the sneering, overt assholism of Boston, along with New York, Philadelphia, the entire New Jersey Turnpike, and many proud communities I’ve omitted for want of an attention span, if nothing else leaves no room for mystery. If a guy reeking of Budweiser and a series of poor life decisions tells you to get the fuck out of his way because he’s late for his flight, you may wish ill on him and hope that either he misses his plane or it crashes into the ocean en route to whatever asshole-peppered destination he hopes to reach, but you won’t scratch your head over why he acted as he did. He’s just one more person who unabashedly takes out the stressful comings and goings of his life on total strangers, and in some ways it’s even easy to root for him, the thing about the plane crash notwithstanding. Read the rest of this entry »
In 2007, I read God: The Failed Hypothesis by a retired physicist named Victor Stenger. I’ve a read a number of books by scientists and public intellectuals describing various ways in which the notion of a Christian creator is absurd, increasingly as as new evidence about the world we live in comes to light; this was the first that treated the idea of God as a testable hypothesis and proceeded to use scientific principles to shoot it down.
Stenger, it turns out, now lives in Boulder and is an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado. He gave a talk about the likelihood of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe yesterday, and after the Q-&-A that followed his 25- or 30-minute talk, I’m not sure the “elsewhere” part is necessary. What I didn’t foresee, to my own chagrin, is that this talk wouldn’t be merely a magnet for people who think more or less like Stenger does about the cosmos, including the role of creator deities therein.
The median age of the crowd of about 30 people had to be 70 or 75, which I didn’t understand. This made everything a little harder to follow because, through no fault of their own, elderly people can’t help but make a lot of noise, knocking coffee cups over and getting up to piss every three minutes and letting fly with inarticulate exclamatory noises at irregular but frequent intervals.
The talk went on for about 25 minutes and was interesting, though not earth-shattering — the universe is 13.8 billion years old, Hubble has seen out to 13 billion light years and therefore to almost the so-called event horizon, there’s a big chunk of our universe we cannot see directly, and there’s reasonably firm cosmological evidence that there are a staggering number of infinite multiverses in addition to our own, this evidence taking the form of perturbations is the cosmic microwave background discovered in the 1960s and central to much of our understanding about origins (for example, to those who think the Big Bang was “silent,” evidence in the CMB strongly implies otherwise). So, we know that there are maybe a quadrillion planets that could sustain life as we know it out there somewhere, and that Hubble has recently catalogued over 100 planets just in our own corner of the universe. Not all of these are terrestrial, but astrobiologists now believe that a planet doesn’t necessarily need to be “Earth-like” to support life per se. So the chances that intelligent, or sentient, life *does not* exist somewhere seem vanishingly small based on statistics alone, but we have yet to collect any evidence that it does and perhaps never will thanks to the vast distances between planets.
Little did I know that most in the audience didn’t give a fuck about any of this. They all came in with agendas. The crowd seemed about evenly split between everyday conspiracy nuts who think that aliens are already here or have come and gone and that they could fuck us up at any time, and those who insisted on asking unrelated questions in the area of pseudophysics and metaphysics. For example, one guy asked that since string theory posits the existence of 11 dimensions and we only inhabit four, isn’t it possible that “heaven” lies in on of the other seven? Stenger tried to tell him that even if string theory turns out to be valid, which it probably won’t, it will then follow that in fact we did inhabit all 11 dimensions and that any such “heaven” is by definition beyond the reach of scientific inquiry because it would be supernatural. This only led the guy to repeat the question with greater insistence. This circus of plaintive bullshit and false premises was a theme of the afternoon. It was maddening. One lady said she’d been to China twice and that scientists there knew that we had aliens here in the U.S., so why wasn’t the government letting us see them? Then there was the fellow who asked, all full of senility and hubris, why we were wasting time and money on projects like SETI when there were so many problems to be addressed right here on Earth. I felt like standing up and yelling, “Then why the fuck are you HERE and not back in the soup kitchen, you insufferable prick?”
My one contribution was responding to someone who asked what the closest planet (or star, actually) was that appeared to be a candidate for supporting life. Stenger didn’t remember the name of the star but recalled that it was about 20 light years away. I said that last I knew it was Fomalhaut, a first-magnitude star in Piscis Austrinis (“The Southern Fish”) that is maybe 24 light-years distant. I don’t know if this is still true but it was true a few years ago. Anyway, after this utterance I got up, took a bow, barked “You’re all fucking loopy!” and left the room amid a smattering of appreciative boos and whistles. Or left wishing I had.
Next time I attend a talk that touches even tangentially on the notion of “extraterrestrials,” I’ll be sure to remind myself going in what I should expect.
Vincent Carroll of the Denver Post has written a badly misguided column, bordering not only on excessive and unabashedly biased cheerleading for someone Carroll once in some sense supervised, but also on irresponsibility from a public-health standpoint.
I’ve written about Paul Campos’ off-kilter “analyses” of fat science many times on this blog. That he has been energetically pursuing his scientifically vacuous crusade for over a decade now does not make him a “debunker.” He is an attorney by training, someone whose job is to argue, not seek truth. The former he does admirably well; in the latter he is a dismal failure.
His latest piece in the New York Times has been thoroughly and expertly fisked by medical professionals (who, the columnist might have noted by now, are conspicuously absent from his various irrational screeds about the “hysteria” surrounding the “exaggerated” claims about obesity). Please see this piece by David Katz, M.D.
The points that Carroll raises in a desultory attempt to lend Campos’ arguments credibility are tired canards by now. Just because the BMI is not a perfect tool at the individual level doesn’t mean that people carrying an excess of body fat aren’t at increased risk for certain health woes (and one of Campos’ favorite tricks is to use obvious outliers like hypermuscular NFL linemen to “prove” that the BMI is meaningless, when anyone with a pulse knows that the overwhelming majority of people with a BMI over 30 are not fit, they’re simply heavy).
Collins also observes that “Campos has never dismissed the danger of being seriously obese.” So how is it that thin folks and really obese ones have a higher health risk as a result of how they are built than people who just happen to represent the majority of people who read the anti-scientific rants that Campos — who also happens to be portly but not fat, or at least this was the case when I was trading barbs with him years ago on a now-defunct running forum — unflaggingly excretes?
But this is perhaps the worst: “When he began addressing the topic, he noted, alarmists were predicting declining longevity in the U.S., which hasn’t occurred.” This is a neon-sign-caliber straw man. No credible health professionals have ever asserted any such thing. Life expectancy has been rising steadily for decades. Does that mean that the health risks of HIV, cancer and playing with live hand grenades are overstated as well?
Finally, life expectancy per se is hardly a stand-alone measure of a society’s health. Consider this:
“[N]ew research from Eileen Crimmins, AARP Chair in Gerontology at the University of Southern California, and Hiram Beltr??n-S??nchez, a postdoctoral fellow at the Andrus Gerontology Center at USC, shows that average ‘morbidity,’ or, the period of life spend with serious disease or loss of functional mobility, has actually increased in the last few decades.”
Thus the fact that we can ably keep people with diabetes, CAD, severe hypertension and other chronic diseases alive without relieving much of their debility does not spell a lack of a negative impact of obesity on America’s health profile.
I should add in conclusion that arguments concerning how overweight people are portrayed in the media, personally maligned both consciously and subconsciously, etc. are completely independent of medical facts and should not be conflated with same, tempting as it may be. I abhor the idea of mocking anyone who might already feel intense shame simply because of how they look and always have, as I am very far from perfect in myriad ways myself.
I’m both honored and excited to have the opportunity to formally review Lize Brittin‘s recently published book Training on Empty (Smashwords, $5.99) which details the former elite young runner’s years-long and nearly fatal confrontation with anorexia nervosa. Honored, because Lize could have asked any number of qualified readers to undertake the tasks of critiquing the book along is journey from manuscript to published work and spreading the word of its availability. Excited, because Lize is a very close friend of mine and has invested a wealth of time, emotion, and perseverance into this project, and as both a fellow writer and someone who has dealt with some of the issues discussed in the book, I’ve long been convinced that Training on Empty is a work in desperate need of a wide audience. The chances of this happening just increased fantastically.
Books by athletes who have survived serious eating disorders, as well as books about EDs presented from a clinician’s point of view, are not in short supply; I’ve read a number of them, and among them have been several well-written, informative, and deeply engaging pieces of literature.
All bias aside, however, Training on Empty breaks the mold in important ways, and thus presents itself as a genuinely fresh addition to the genre. As I noted, there are personal accounts and there are didactic tomes by medical professionals and other therapeutic types. Lize, on the other hand, has seamlessly confined a frank and often terrifying personal memoir with a text that explores the psychological, medical, sociological and even spiritual aspects of a range of related illnesses that affect over ten million young people and adults in the United States alone. And critically, she writes as someone who has truly “been there”: She is an unusually accomplished distance runner who at age sixteen set the record at the Pike’s Peak Ascent, one of the preeminent mountain races in the world. She was a two-time finalist at the Kinney (now Foot Locker) National High-School Cross-Country Championships, placing seventh as a senior, and as a college freshman was the runner-up at the TAC (now USATF) Junior National Cross-Country Championships.
In terms of style, Lize is a straight shooter without being melodramatic, a wordsmith who can turn a phrase without overreaching. “Training on Empty” includes mention of youthful pharmacological and sexual interludes, and descriptions of a tumultuous and sometimes tortured upbringing, but these are presented only to the extent that they help explain their contribution to Lize’s progression down a diseased path that very nearly ended in her death. By far the most gripping angle, for want of a better term, of the book is Lize’s in-depth description of what it was like to be her own relentless and brutal tormentor for so many years. The fear, the resolve, the pathological ideas and plans and actions that few people could ever conceive of, the relentless hours spent both training and maliciously wounding herself — the way she presents these, particularly in the later chapters when she describes her post-collegiate life in hell, is literally enough to bring a grown man to tears. Yet that’s not the important thing. What is amazing, what sells Lize’s story – the horrific details of which are far from unique – is that she got well. In reading her account, there are various points at which one expects the book to conclude with the admission that she wrote and submitted the entire thing from within the confines of a psychiatric hospital or medical ward. That she is not only alive but functioning on a better-than-even keel is why people need to read Training On Empty.
Lize, notably and humbly, promises nothing in terms of results. While she has spoken at local high schools and made other overtures aimed at reducing the incidence of her own type of suffering, she matter-of-factly acknowledges that a sea change in attitude is about the only thing that can lead to recovery. At the same time, she describes just how to set up the right conditions. It’s truly titillating as well as exciting.
Yes. Yes, you can get better, and this book proves it. And the author unabashedly reveals what’s needed in order to ensure this.
Sorry I have been away a bit. I have been keeping my eye to the ground anyway, knowing the political climate in which we eat. It has been Painful, I started this morning, showed up at my mom and Dads with the best of intentios about running with their Dog (golden retrever) only to find it was already blind drunk at 10 in the morning. Drinking High Gravity beers, and lots of em. We already talkd about this, and I was pist. Mit Romney has offerd to kill all dogs not inducted to the Morman fathe and I dont happen to agree. But let that go for now. Let us pray for sobriety; of all dogs.
So we saw the national Political conventions of both sides & it was clear Clint Eastwood Dominated….THE SENILE DIVISION!! Wtf, why they never veted his output, I dont know, the GOP seems intennt on self destructioning and if Estwood was paid to flail by the Dems I would of not been surprised.
Still, the Redsox collpase of 2012 is a mystrery to many. They had a Decent roster, and then they are in last place with no David Ortize or Roger Celemts to halp them thanks to disabled list. We can pray.
Ram Amanuel oversaw a teachers strike in the city of Chiacaco, obne of the major urban areas of Ilionios. So he could not control them all. That sucked. They are still a mess as of the last analyses.
I am tired and have coverd the Issues so I quit, laters
Unless you’ve been chained in a basement somewhere or in the throes of a drunken blackout, by now you’re aware that Lance Armstrong, seven-time Tour de France winner and the most decorated cyclist in history, has been banned for life from the sport by the U.S. Anti-Doping Association (USADA) as a consequence of the case the agency has been building against him for months, if not years. Armstrong is charged not only with cheating via chemical enhancement, but also with trafficking, possessing, and administering banned substances. USADA also stripped him of all of his TdF titles, though the body lacks the ultimate authority to do so — that will fall to the International Cycling Federation (UCI). For any one of a thousand similar breakings of the story on Thursday afternoon, try this one in the NY Times. Read the rest of this entry »
I recently downloaded Frank Turner’s (relatively) new album, England Keep My Bones and was delighted to find what is now my favorite hymn!
~ Doc B.
She celebrates it with grilled leg of lamb, the company of loved ones, a respectful nod to her friends and family counted amongst the Rational Faithful, and with these scary, scary Peep cupcakes. Yes. Yes, I made these carcinogenic little morsels.
While in the throes of working on my first investigational new drug (IND) application with its sketchy preclinical studies (and under a tight deadline), I happily distracted myself this evening with Jesse Bering’s Why do human testicles hang like that?
Nicole Bobek, who won the 1995 U.S. Figure Skating Championship and was a member of the 1998 Olympic team, was arrested on Monday on charges that she had conspired to distribute methamphetamine.
The picture on the left is from 1998, when she represented the United States in Nagano. On the right is her arrest mug shot.
Bobek is not the only distaff figure skater, foreign or domestic, to run significantly afoul of the law. In 1997, Oksana Baiul, the Ukranian who won Olympic gold in 1994, drunkenly crashed her luxury car into a tree in Connecticut. (Baiul seems to have put that incident far behind her, however.) And few could forget the bizarre 1994 drama involving Tonya Harding, who along with her ex-husband and a couple of other dignitaries was part of a conspiracy to club fellow American skater Nancy Kerrigan on the knee during the U.S. Championships. Harding won that event, while Kerrigan was forced to withdraw; at the subsequent Olympics, however, Harding finished eighth and Kerrigan took the Silver medal. (Kerrigan herself, some will recall, was caught on microphone at a Walt Disney World publicity parade saying, “This is dumb. I hate it. This is the most corniest [sic] thing I have ever done.” Although Disney was her sponsor, she has nothing but high praise from me for implicitly laying into those assholes.)
There must be a message in here somewhere for parents whose daughters express an interest in figure skating. Sure, let them do it, but by all means make sure they suck at it–an unusual number of champions seem to pay a heavy price.
A few of those Chimp Refuge readers who inexplicably followed the troop to this new already beshatted domain are not doubt familiar with J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, soon to be released as cinematic fan fiction under the guidance of Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy 1 and 2 — although I think Quentin Tarantino would have been the better choice for director) as The Hobbit Movie. Anyway, I live in Mirkwood or something that approximates it. Let’s compare:
This popped up on New Scientist’s online news this morning: Christians battle each other over evolution by Amanda Gefter.
So the Discovery Institute insists that to be a Christian means that theory of evolution must be rejected as espoused in their new Faith and Evolution web site. The web site, Geftner speculates, may be a response to Francis Collin’s launch of the BioLogos Foundation. Collins and crew — with funding from the Templeton Foundation — are proponents of theistic evolution which purports that the supreme being of Christianity chose to create life via evolution.
That actually sounds much like the belief of the minister of my childhood church (United Methodist). Rev. M. loved science, was fascinated by modern cosmology, embraced the theory of evolution, and in fact was a substitute science teacher at my high school. I daresay he’d look askance at being told he could not be a Christian for his scientific inclinations.
Strictly speaking, he was a creationist (divine hand behind the Big Bang, etc.). I recall a sermon in which he compared the imagery of an atom to a galaxy (a loose connection to physical laws) as a tribute to the Christian supreme being. To his credit, he never conflated God with science in the public high school classroom. So even if the magisteria of faith and science might have become entangled when he stood at the pulpit, they certainly did not when he spoke in the secular public arena.
So this is what concerns me about Francis Collins. He’s speaking from the pulpit on BioLogos — analogous to Rev. M’s paean to God via atoms to galaxies. However, Collins is rumored to be a potential pick for head of the NIH. Will he be able to keep the magisteria non-overlapping in a secular venue?
To echo Gefter, allowing the magisteria of faith and science to become entangled serves neither well. The DI’ers and BioLogos just conflate them in different ways.
A friend in another galaxy far away, when presented with photos of another friend’s wide-eyed infant, remarked that the cute (and she truly is) baby made her icy heart melt.
In today’s New York Times, Natalie Angier discusses primatologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy’s forthcoming book Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding. Hrdy posits that our capability of cooperating with others, our ability to empathize, and our attempts to see another’s perspective likely arose from the selective pressures of being part of a cooperatively breeding social group.
Also noted is the entertainment value of infants in societies without the usual technological devices. Even with them, babies can provide amusement, cf. Talking Heads’ “Stay Up Late.”
Maybe Kevin needs to hold a drooling infant and make him stay up all night. All night long.
Link to the original article: In a Helpless Baby, the Roots of Our Social Glue.
Now that I’ve expended my quota of navel-gazing for the year and probably for 2009 as well, I can go back to posting like an asshole.
I suppose this is interesting mainly for its novelty. I can’t even feign surprise at the vacuity of the nutter droning on about how American Christians have served as a model of tolerance for the rest of the world to aspire to. He said it with a straight face, but he’s still crazy. Hell, they can’t even tolerate each other, much less people of other religions, homos, and the rest of us. Then again, the newsies always seek to find the most extreme of the extreme, and I don’t pretend that Bob Enyart is representative of anything or anyone besides his own quaintly childish points of view.
One thing that did strike me about the article was its classic wording:
Eleven billboards in have gone up in metro Denver and Colorado Springs that question the existence of God.
Bullshit. The billboards do not merely “question” anything, they state categorically what their creators
believe know. You wouldn’t ever see a standard, pro-religion (or neutral) article claiming that people merely “question” atheists. This is demonstrative of the current state of thinking in America, somewhat ironic in light of what this piece is about.
Finally, since I’m obligated to piss on everyone and everything, I will note my own shock at what a hillbilly town Colorado Springs seemed to be when I spent four weeks there as a member of the U.S. Army in 1996. A cowboy town. I had envisioned in my naivete all of Colorado being a Boulder-esque, runner-and-cyclist-charged bastion of stoner-happy progressivity, and I was dead fucking wrong on that score. Still, it’s a beautiful-ass place. I got to see both Pike’s Peak and the Royal Gorge Bridge in the same weekend, and there are not many parts of the country that offer that luxury.
I filed this under “Doc B’s Big Bag of What the Hell” just because I never noticed that category, and because I can.
A couple of posts back, I plugged the Spore game a bit, and I see that proprietor of Pharyngula asks if anyone has played the game yet? PZ shrugs his skeptical shoulders and says insouciantly (well, maybe…I just like the adverb):
I’ve played with the creature creator, which is actually rather fun…but it’s really just the most elaborate version of Mr Potatohead ever designed. What I’ve seen of the game itself puts me off a bit, though. It’s not going to teach one single thing about evolution, and actually teaches several things that are anti-evolutionary. It’s a design toy, not any kind of evolution simulator, but people are gushing over it as if it might actually improve the image of evolutionary biology.
Based on my admittedly limited experience with the Spore Creature Creator, I agree to a certain extent with this, but it might just spark some interest in evolutionary biology even if it doesn’t smack of full-blown accuracy. You know, sort of a gateway thing. I mean, the pulp science fiction stories I read as a kid weren’t scientifically accurate, but they did set my imagination to soaring and thinking about scientific principles. This new video game might just do that to young minds receptive to such things.
Like PZ’s Skatje, the elder fruit o’ my womb has been encouraging me to check the game out. Spawn the Elder is a video game fan boy, but he’s also an evo-devo fan boy, having read the popular books written by Sean B. Carroll and Marc Kirschner and John Gerhart (Endless Forms Most Beautiful and The Plausibility of Life: Resolving Darwin’s Dilemma, respectively) so he views the game with the appropriate perspective. Thus, he, along with his old mother (that would be me), was thrilled to watch the National Geographic Channel’s program last night, How to Build a Better Being. [Yes, you must suffer through an advertisement if you watch the clip from MSN-TV's "The First Ten Minutes." Long live running dog capitalist Amerika!]
Although the PR bits that I received in the Chimp Refuge banana box implied at a cursory glance that this might be a documentary about Spore itself, I was delighted to see that the major focus by far was on evo-devo.
The NGC program was very well done. The concepts of hox genes as “genetic tool kits” and how these play into development, morphology and evolution were presented at a level that a scientifically curious layperson could readily comprehend, certainly a bright middle-schooler. The scientists interviewed expressed a true joy and infectious excitement about their research. From fruit flies to Tiktaalik (the fossil fish) to the human hand to the radula of an abalone, the interconnectedness of life’s “genetic tool kit” is illustrated in a very accessible way. The laconic but clearly curious and intelligent Will Wright, the creator of Spore, acted as the nominative “host.”
Spawn the Elder and I really geeked out over this TV show. And what precipitated it? A plug for a video game. So even if “Spore” doesn’t reflect absolute accuracy of evolutionary processes, the fact that evo-devo showed up in popular culture, even if it is on the high numbers of cable TV, made me swoon!
I highly recommend the NGC program. Catch it on the rebound.
Time for a new category here at the Refuge, namely “Hokey Haiku“. It’s just a fun way to communicate a simple thought or observation of the day in a mere 17 syllables. Don’t expect Robert Frost or e.e.cummings though.
Where is my calculator?
The semester starts
Yep. I’m back on campus.
The lead article in Salon’s newsletter caught my eye this morning when I perused the ol’ Google-mail Inbox. Under the auspices of Salon’s “Atoms and Eden: Conversations About Science and Faith,” Steve Paulson interviews James Carse (retired director of NYU’s Religious Studies Program) in Religion is Poetry. The byline: “The beauties of religion need to be saved from both the true believers and the trendy atheists, argues compelling religious scholar James Carse.” The interview comes on the heels of the publication of Carse’s new book, The Religious Case Against Belief.
Cerberus guards the gates of Salon in the form of advertisements, but this provocative interview is worth the read. So are the letters submitted in response to the interview.